5 Easy Ways to Cut Your Spending Dramatically

Trying to trim expenses can seem like a never ending task, as new expenses always pop out of nowhere. With already tight budgets, the task of reducing spending can seem impossible. You’ve already cut out your morning latte and canceled your gym membership – what more can you do?

Lowering your expenses is definitely a daunting task. While you’ll have to make sacrifices and get a little creative, it definitely can be done without cramping your lifestyle too dramatically.

Cut Up Your Credit Cards

Take a close look at your credit card collection if you have multiple cards, and decide which ones you should keep using and which ones you can cut up. First, note the interest rate for each card, and don’t use the ones that charge the higher rates. Obviously, it is ideal to be able to pay off your bill every month – but that isn’t always realistic depending on your situation. Second, take a close look at the rewards programs for each card. Such programs are becoming more and more competitive and can be a determining factor when deciding what your go-to card should be. Also, canceling credit cards can negatively affect your credit score as it lowers your credit to debt ratio. Consider literally cutting them up and forgetting about them instead of really canceling them.

Be Your Own Chef

Food is one of the biggest expenses we face and most people are guilty of spending too much on dining out. Don’t ignore this habit because the expenses can really add up. Cooking more at home can easily and drastically lower your spending.

But what if you hate cooking? Don’t worry, because you can still save. To mitigate this, cook once a week by meal prepping. Make a big batch of whatever you want and portion it out into multiple meals a week. When it’s time to eat, all you have to do is heat it up – even easier than going out.

Ride a Bike

Car maintenance and gym memberships can cost an arm and a leg. Why not kill two birds with one stone by riding a bike? Depending on where you work, riding a bike to your office could be a great option to get a workout in and save money on gas. Many big cities also now have bike sharing programs, which makes it even more convenient to ride wherever you need to go.

Reinvent Your Social Life

Socializing with friends takes time and money. Just having a single drink could cost up to $15 with tax and tip, which can really add up as the night goes on. However, there are plenty of inexpensive or free activities you can do instead. If you’re going out for drinks, consider meeting up during happy hour. While timing might not be ideal, it can cut your bill in half. Also, every city, big or small, has free events, especially during warm weather. So take advantage of them as the weather is warming up for the season.

Analyze Your Bills

Getting a bill is never a fun moment, but be sure to take a thorough look instead of quickly glancing through it. Many of us end up paying fees we don’t realize every month that could easily be avoided. Also, look carefully at your usage every month, particularly when it comes to your cell phone and utilities. Perhaps you could lower your texting plan if you’re not close to using your maximum for the month, while others can easily trim their data plans. Small details like these seem insignificant when you look at them individually, but everything can collectively make a huge difference in the long run.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com

The 50/20/30 Budgeting Rule and Downloadable Worksheet

There are dozens of choices when it comes to budget plans. If you’re still looking, or are completely new to the concept of budgeting, let’s introduce you to an age-old budgeting guideline: the 50/20/30 rule. Even though it’s a classic, it bears a fresh look, especially through the lens of the modern American’s financial viewpoint.

Three Categories and What They Contain

The 50/20/30 rule splits up take-home pay into three large spending categories — fixed costs, financial goals, and flexible spending. Here’s a list of what each contains.

  • Fixed Costs (50%) – These are the expenses most vital to your survival, which don’t vary from month to month: mortgage or rent, vehicle payments, and utilities.
  • Financial Goals (20%) – This category includes any monthly payments and contributions toward improved financial health: 401K and other retirement accounts (from post-taxed income), extra payments on credit card debt or student loans, building an emergency fund, and savings goals such as a down payment for a home or funding an education.
  • Flexible Spending (30%) – This category includes expenses that vary from month to month: groceries, gas, eating out, shopping, hobbies, and entertainment.

One of the best traits of the 50/20/30 guideline is its simplicity. There aren’t dozens of categories to micromanage, but it will still get the job done. This is a great starting point for everyone, especially if you’ve never stopped to look at the bigger picture of your spending balance.

Reduce Your Fixed Costs.

Financial experts recommend your fixed living costs not exceed 50% of your income, but — thanks to huge mortgages, multiple vehicles, and skyrocketing rent — many Americans will find themselves over this amount. Know what percentage of your income is consumed by fixed expenses, then identify ways to reduce them: refinance your home, negotiate lower interest rates, or choose not to buy new vehicles every few years.

Look for Ways to Spend More on Your Financial Goals.

Reducing your fixed costs will allow you to designate more income toward your savings and other financial goals. Maybe you’re barely saving 5% right now, but even small changes can make a difference. In our debt-burdened society, it can also be difficult to choose between paying off debt and saving for retirement, especially when you’re young and retirement is still far away. Remember that the more you contribute to retirement accounts when you’re young (both pre and post-tax), the more it will compound (that also goes for high-yield savings accounts). Even if your current focus is debt, continue to contribute as much as you can to retirement and savings. When you eliminate bad debt, use former payment funds to increase your retirement and savings contributions.

Be More Controlling with Flexible Spending.

You may never be able to completely predict all the categories under flex spending, but the more you can control, the closer you’ll get to flip-flopping that 30% with 20% and save more for future goals by spending less on immediate wants. Try limiting how much you eat out or go to the movies, and take advantage of rewards cards, fuel points, coupons, and rebates to reduce your grocery and gas bill on a regular basis.

It may be basic, but if you follow these tips, the 50/20/30 rule might just be the tool that helps you get out of debt and improve your financial outlook for good!

If you need a good starting point for setting your budget, check out our Budgeting guide and fillable PDF worksheet.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Moneyning.com

4 Money Skills You Should’ve Had Yesterday

Everyone’s life is different and we all learn life skills in a different order, at a different age, and at a different place. No matter where you’re at, here are 4 money skills you should have.

Negotiating purchases: When you were shopping for your first new car you probably didn’t have a clue about how much you should spend or how much the car was really worth. It’s time to do your homework. Negotiation is a battle and you need to show up to the dealership prepared with knowledge as your ammo. Don’t just accept the price of the first car you like. Make a counter-offer that’s reasonable and don’t be afraid to say no and walk away. Stick to your gameplan and you’ll end up with a good deal.

Here’s how to buy a car in 5 easy steps!

Budgeting your paycheck: Your first job put more money in your pocket than you’d ever made in your life and you probably spent like crazy. Now that you’re older, you need to be seriously thinking about your spending habits and saving for retirement. If you haven’t used a budget before, find one and stick to it. If you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck, it’s time to stop.

Check out our budgeting guide for some helpful hints on creating a budget.

Maximizing your credit score: When you’re young, you don’t care about your credit score. But it’s never too early to start paying attention to it. Anything you purchase that requires making payments will be affected by your credit score. The higher your score, the better your interest rate, which will save you a lot of money over the life of the loan.

Using your credit cards: Credit cards are a valuable tool when used correctly. When used irresponsibly, they can turn on you in a heartbeat. When you get that first credit card, use it periodically to build credit. DON’T overspend. If you want to use your credit card more often, make sure you pay it off every month. EVERY SINGLE MONTH. Don’t miss payments and don’t leave a balance. If you stick to those rules, you’ll be in good shape.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

4 Reasons You’re in Debt

Status.

We’ve all heard of “Keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s that desire to have the things others have that may be too extravagant for your budget. If you go around thinking about the things you feel like you’re missing out on, you’re probably going to put yourself in a financial hole. Take a pause when you feel an impulse-buy coming on, and save yourself a headache later.

Credit cards.

Don’t let your credit cards be in charge (no pun intended). Take hold of your finances and don’t spend money you don’t have. Sure, there are benefits to using credit cards, but they can also be your worst enemy if you’re not careful. Use credit cards to build good credit but once you start racking up debt, it can take a long time to get out from underneath it.

Unforeseen expenses.

Sometimes expenses come out of nowhere. You may feel like you’re doing good, but then your engine fails and you need a new car. Be prepared. Make sure you’re building up an emergency fund, because if you don’t have it when you need it, you’ll end up putting yourself in a deep hole in the blink of an eye.

Life is expensive.

You may think your budget is mapped out and solid (and it may be), but then your best friend gets engaged. The next thing you know, you’re hitting up an ATM machine. Sometimes, you need to spend money celebrating, but plan ahead and you’ll be doing yourself a favor down the road.

Get yourself on track financially with our budgeting guidebook! Need help creating a budget you can stick to? Attend one of our free budgeting seminars during the year or make an appointment with a representative at your local First Financial branch.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

4 Reasons You Should Live Like You’re Broke

Businessman holding empty pockets

So you can pay off debt faster.

Debt isn’t cheap. Anyone who’s ever had to throw an unexpected bill on a credit card knows this to be true. On the occasion this happens, it can sometimes feel like it takes all year to pay it off. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, this can definitely be the case. If you’re spending less, this will give you a chance to pay down that debt a little faster than you’d normally be able to.

So you can save up for awesome experiences.

We all enjoy buying “stuff.” Most the time that stuff isn’t around years later. Sometimes, we’ll remember that stuff we spent our money on years ago, and it seems ridiculous that we thought so highly of it. The things we typically remember most are people and places, and the experiences that come with it. Next time you want to splurge on an object, put that cash into savings and figure out the best way you can spend it on a memory that can last a lifetime.

So your children won’t treasure material possessions.

If you never start your child on a path of not needing to have the same things as the kid down the street, not only will they not feel like their self-worth is based on objects, but they might grow up appreciating the little things in life. They also may be a little more frugal when they’re spending their own money one day.

So you can simplify life.

Things are nice, but life can be amazing even when it’s simple. Teach your children the value of saving money for the future. Show them there’s more to living than a daily trip to Starbucks or the mall. Eat at home more. Avoid using that credit card. Old-fashioned living can be quite satisfying.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

5 Ways to Make Budgeting Easy Even Around the Holidays

Business man with a santa hat isolated, santa's budget

A budget is essential because having a budget is the first step to achieving financial success. “It’s the backbone of everything else that you do financially,” says David Weliver, founder of financial blog MoneyUnder30. “It all comes down to that golden rule of spending less than you earn. A budget is how you control that.” Think you can’t budget around the holidays?  Think again. You can use these helpful budgeting tips all year long!

Follow the Rules

One guideline of budgeting is the 50/30/20 rule. In the simplest terms, 50% of your income should go to your needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for savings.

What’s a need? For most people, that will include housing costs, whether that’s rent and rental insurance or mortgage payments and homeowner’s insurance. Beyond that, spending priorities can vary greatly. Essentials also might include groceries, car payments, cell phone bills, and utilities.

Wants would fit in the flexible spending category. They might include eating out, going to the movies, buying clothes, or other day-to-day expenses that can vary greatly from month to month.

Finally, the 20% you save should go to your financial goals, whether it’s short-term goals, such as saving for a vacation, or long-term goals like funding your retirement.

These guidelines can be adapted to your personal situation. “It’s okay to set your own ratios,” Weliver says. “But the goal is to try to live so that your essentials are 50 percent or less of your income, and then you have money left over.”

Organize Your Money

Once you set your budget, there’s a good chance you’ll need help tracking your progress. You may want to do so using an Excel spreadsheet, a pencil and paper or an online budgeting tool like YNAB.

You may even try the envelope method, for which you use cash that you divvy up between a number of category-labeled envelopes. Once an envelope is empty, you’re done spending for that category that month. It’s an extreme strategy, especially in today’s world of plastic and online payments, but it really works.

Mvelopes digitizes the envelope strategy. It offers a free version, as well as a premium option for $95 a year that comes with additional features, such as the ability to link more than four accounts and create more than 25 envelopes.

Weliver suggests a twist on the envelope method: Try using different bank accounts for different types of spending. One account can be reserved for your fixed essential costs, another for groceries, another for dining out and so on. Of course, you need to make sure you are using fee-free accounts.

Focus on Repaying Debt

If you’re carrying a lot of debt, it can quickly consume your budget.

The minimum amount due on any debt you have must count among your essential expenses. Ideally, you want to pay more than the minimum, even if it means socking away less in savings and investments. “Paying down debt is a form of savings,” says Weliver. The faster you pay off your debt, the more you save in interest charges.

There are two common approaches to paying off debt. With one, you tackle the balances with the highest interest rates first. This one will save you the most on interest charges in the long run. The other strategy, often called the snowball method, involves paying off the smallest debt first, which makes you feel good and encourages you to keep rolling until your debt is gone.

If you are carrying a lot of high interest debt across multiple accounts, it may make sense to consolidate or refinance those loans.

Go Digital

Mint is the reigning king of free budgeting sites and apps, but there are tons of other options that work pretty similarly.

The big idea: You connect the site to your accounts with other financial institutions. The site then tracks all of your money’s movements in one place, automatically categorizing each transaction and organizing your expenses into colorful charts and graphs to help you identify spending trends.

Set Spending and Saving on Autopilot

Once you have your budget in place, setting up automatic contributions for your savings and automatic payments for regular bills can make it a breeze to stay on track. Some companies even provide discounts to people who sign up for automatic payments.

Two apps can help you automate your savings further:

  • Acorns rounds up to the nearest dollar on every purchase you make with a linked checking account and automatically invests the change into a diversified portfolio for you. You can customize your risk tolerance and adapt your investments based on personal preferences.
  • Digit monitors your spending habits and, when it determines you can safely afford it, transfers a small amount of money (typically between $5 to $50 every few days) from your linked checking account to a special Digit savings account.

Automating your budgeting and spending will encourage you to save more and make it easier to achieve your financial goals, even when you’re holiday shopping too!

Article Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomanderson/2016/04/05/5-ways-to-make-budgeting-easy/2/#11f576f1558c